This is not the first time I’ve struggled getting SSL certificate validation to work,
so I thought this time I better write down how I did to avoid future time-waste.

For security and convenience reasons, I want to do the signing of client certificates
on a separate dedicated machine, also known as certificate authority (CA).

This allows us to grant new clients access without having to login to the PostgreSQL
server signing certs or modifying pg_hba.conf.

We will create a special database group called sslcertusers.
All users in this group will be able to connect provided they have a
client certificate signed by the CA.

In the example below, replace “trustly” with the name of your company/organisation.

The instructions are for Ubuntu Linux 12.04 LTS.

Setup CA

The CA should be an offline computer locked in a safe.

Generate CA private key

sudo openssl genrsa -des3 -out /etc/ssl/private/trustly-ca.key 2048
sudo chown root:ssl-cert /etc/ssl/private/trustly-ca.key
sudo chmod 640 /etc/ssl/private/trustly-ca.key

Generate CA public certificate

sudo openssl req -new -x509 -days 3650 \
-subj '/C=SE/ST=Stockholm/L=Stockholm/O=Trustly/CN=trustly' \
-key /etc/ssl/private/trustly-ca.key \
-out /usr/local/share/ca-certificates/trustly-ca.crt
sudo update-ca-certificates

Configure PostgreSQL-server

Generate PostgreSQL-server private key

# Remove default snakeoil certs
sudo rm /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/server.key
sudo rm /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/server.crt
# Enter a passphrase
sudo -u postgres openssl genrsa -des3 -out /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/server.key 2048
# Remove the passphrase
sudo -u postgres openssl rsa -in /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/server.key -out /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/server.key
sudo -u postgres chmod 400 /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/server.key

Request CA to sign PostgreSQL-server key

sudo -u postgres openssl req -new -nodes -key /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/server.key -days 3650 -out /tmp/server.csr -subj '/C=SE/ST=Stockholm/L=Stockholm/O=Trustly/CN=postgres'

Sign PostgreSQL-server key with CA private key

sudo openssl x509 -days 3650 \
-req -in /tmp/server.csr \
-CA /usr/local/share/ca-certificates/trustly-ca.crt \
-CAkey /etc/ssl/private/trustly-ca.key -CAcreateserial \
-out /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/server.crt
sudo chown postgres:postgres /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/server.crt

Create root cert = PostgreSQL-server cert + CA cert

sudo -u postgres sh -c 'cat /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/server.crt /etc/ssl/certs/trustly-ca.pem > /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/root.crt'
sudo cp /var/lib/postgresql/9.1/main/root.crt /usr/local/share/ca-certificates/trustly-postgresql.crt
sudo update-ca-certificates

Grant access

CREATE GROUP sslcertusers;
ALTER GROUP sslcertusers ADD USER joel;
# /etc/postgresql/9.1/main/pg_hba.conf:
hostssl nameofdatabase +sslcertusers cert clientcert=1

Restart PostgreSQL

sudo service postgresql restart


Copy root cert from PostgreSQL-server

mkdir ~/.postgresql
cp /etc/ssl/certs/trustly-postgresql.pem ~/.postgresql/root.crt

Generate PostgreSQL-client private key

openssl genrsa -des3 -out ~/.postgresql/postgresql.key 1024

# If this is a server, remove the passphrase:
openssl rsa -in ~/.postgresql/postgresql.key -out ~/.postgresql/postgresql.key

Request CA to sign PostgreSQL-client key

# Replace "joel" with username:
openssl req -new -key ~/.postgresql/postgresql.key -out ~/.postgresql/postgresql.csr -subj '/C=SE/ST=Stockholm/L=Stockholm/O=Trustly/CN=joel'
sudo openssl x509 -req -in ~/.postgresql/postgresql.csr -CA /etc/ssl/certs/trustly-ca.pem -CAkey /etc/ssl/private/trustly-ca.key -out ~/.postgresql/postgresql.crt -CAcreateserial
sudo chown joel:joel -R ~/.postgresql
sudo chmod 400 -R ~/.postgresql/postgresql.key


The following files are created/modififed on each machine:


/etc/ssl/certs/trustly-ca.pem -> /usr/local/share/ca-certificates/trustly-ca.crt


/etc/ssl/certs/trustly-ca.pem -> /usr/local/share/ca-certificates/trustly-ca.crt
/etc/ssl/certs/trustly-postgresql.pem -> /usr/local/share/ca-certificates/trustly-postgresql.crt